Reading Between the Lines: Zawahiri to Zarqawi

I’ve read some analyses of the Zawahiri letter to Zarqawi, and I think much is being missed by not reading between the lines. The letter doesn’t tell us any “new” news about the ideological goals of both sender and receiver. A few important points jumped out at me without going into subtext:

1. Zawahiri and other mujahideen were in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and some elements of the Pakistani Army were in pursuit–with that being known, this could put more pressure on Musharraf vis-a-vis ISI factions that want to shelter al-Qaida.

2. Zawahiri brought up his “Algerian brothers,” and as I discussed this with Dan Darling, he’s referring to the amnesty deal for the GSPC. What that proves to me, and Dan agreed, is that this indicates there is still a command structure in al-Qaida and that Zawahiri/bin Ladin are in the director’s chair.

3. Abu Faraj was a major player and his arrest was a big blow to al-Qaida.

4. Zawahiri is fearful that Iran will intervene if Zarqawi doesn’t get his actions against the Shia under control–whether it be requested by indigenous Shia Iraqis or an outside decision. Keep in mind, this is from the perspective of Zawahiri.

5. Wherever Zawahiri is, he’s somewhat disconnected from media sources as well as in need of money. The tone and wording suggests that maybe his unfamiliarity with the way things are being reported on al-Jazeera stems from the fact that he is having to move from place to place, with no time for such matters. His non-static location should affect our search. This doesn’t mean, however, that he’s completely out of touch with realities on the ground. His use of inquiry concerning what is occuring in Iraq is a more tactful way of raising important issues with Zarqawi, rather than him truly wanting answers returned.

But more important than those issues, this letter shows us the attributes of Zawahiri’s personality. From this we also can judge the personality of Zarqawi by the way he is viewed from Zawahiri. I believe this tells us a lot that we may have suspected before. This letter is one that has a bottom-line in it that is glaringly obvious to me:

Zawahiri is very worried that Zarqawi is going to blow the whole Iraq deal because he’s a loose cannon.

I have posted more on the personal attributes displayed in the letter at my blog, Terrorism Unveiled. Here is also a link to view my (non-academic) notes in the margins of the letter.

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  1. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘Zawahiri is very worried that Zarqawi is going to blow the whole Iraq deal because he’s a loose cannon.’

    Loose cannon? Psychotic murderer, what’s the dif?

  2. Kathy K says:

    I’d say that analysis is spot-on (the one on your site)
    I especially liked, “I doubt he believes what he’s writing, but he knows he must write it in order to get Zarqawi to react positively” – along with the comment about words being almost equal to action.

    I think that is one thing that Americans find it hardest to “get” about that culture (and other ‘face’ cultures).